Rumor grades! It’s where we combine sharing rumors bouncing around Major League Baseball with a critique of those rumors and how much sense they make. It’s deadline day, so let’s get right to our latest entry.
The Rays aren’t trying to win in 2018. I’m not even saying that with judgement in my voice (for once) — it’s just a fact. It’s July 31, the Rays are .500, 21 games back of the first-place Red Sox, 10 games back in the Wild Card race, and have already done some selling while looking to bring in inexpensive, controllable players like Tommy Pham. They would trade Archer to the Braves because Archer is 1) healthy 2) makes money 3) and will bring back prospects and/or more inexpensive, controllable MLB players.
Let’s look at what the Rays are on the hook for, financially, in 2019:
Chris Archer — $7.67 million
Kevin Kiermaier — $8.17 million
That’s it. Everyone else is a free agent, arbitration-eligible and therefore not guaranteed money for next season, or pre-arbitration and even less expensive or guaranteed a job. The Rays have already whittled down their roster so there is nearly nothing on it that resembles a real MLB salary: trading Archer would add more options in the quest for the next relevant Rays’ team by leveraging his relatively inexpensive rest of 2018, his cheap 2019, and his two inexpensive club options for 2020 and 2021, while also shedding his 2019 salary in the process.
We can get into why the Rays might be doing all of this shedding another time, but for now, just know that it’s a lot easier to sell a baseball team if it has little in the way of overhead, has a television deal in place, and is in a new stadium, too.
Why the Braves would trade for Chris Archer
Archer never seemed to blossom into the pitcher many analysts and scouts felt he would, but part of that might be because he lives in the American League East, where he has to face the lineups of the Red Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Orioles all the time. Those latter two might be less of an issue in 2018, sure, but still, there’s probably some familiarity at play there for a guy who doesn’t have a super diverse array of pitches. Moving Archer to the NL East, where the Mets and Marlins are jokes and the Phillies are just half-a-game up, makes a lot of sense for Atlanta.
Plus, the Braves are overflowing with prospects even following the punishment of having to release of many of their international prospect signings. They are in a position to leverage some of those prospects to gamble on Archer, who, worst-case scenario, is a rotation-stabilizing back-end arm. Best-case? He’s not an ace — I’m optimistic, not delusional — but makes the top half of Atlanta’s rotation stronger.
Either would be a positive, given Julio Teheran is pitching poorly, Brandon McCarthy is on the 60-day disabled list — as is Mike Soroka — and they’re currently relying on the Anibal Sanchez Rejuvenation Project to keep them near the top of the NL East. Sanchez might keep pitching well the rest of the year, but everyone involved will feel much better about that if Atlanta also has Chris Archer to fall back on.
This one gets an A. The Braves have the prospects to entice anyone into a deal. The Rays are selling, and Archer is one of the last big-league pieces left that they’ve got to sell right now. It makes a whole lot of sense — which doesn’t mean it will happen — but a whole lot of sense is a good place to start.